Car Ownership
Singapore 2019

A comprehensive guide to car ownership in Singapore

Last Updated: August, 2019. Latest available data from July, 2019.

Highlights

  • Singapore's car ownership rate is roughly 11%. In the US, it is nearly 80% and it is just under 50% in Europe.

  • Despite the government's policies to reduce the number of cars, there are nearly one million vehicles on Singapore's roads. More than 600,000 of those are private and rental cars, including cars used by ride-hailing services such as Grab.

  • Roads take up 12% of the country's total land area, which is a far higher percentage than in many larger countries.

  • A new compact car costs around $99,000 in Singapore. The same car would cost about $24,000 in the UK and the US. Despite this, the number of super-luxury cars on Singapore roads has risen in the past decade.

  • The average age of cars in Singapore has steadily declined in the last 5 years and is now 5.46 years old. This goes against the global trend where cars are much older and are continuing to increase in age. For instance, 11.6 years in the US, 10.1 in Australia, 8.29 years in Japan and 9.73 in Europe.

Motor vehicle population

Figures released by the Land Transport Authority for 2018 reveal that total vehicle population in Singapore shrunk by 0.5 per cent to 957,006, the lowest since 2016.

As of July 2019, though, there has seen a slight increase in the first half of the year with the vehicle population up to 967,768.

Private cars

The number of privately-owned cars registered last year, however, saw unusual growth. There was a 0.9% rise in the number of private passenger cars which stands at 551,575 in 2018 compared to 546,706 the previous year.

And in the first half of 2019 the number of private passenger cars on the roads has increased slightly once again – totaling 556,155.

One reason for this was the exit of ride-hailing firm Uber and with it, the halt to an aggressive private-hire fleet expansion. As a result, car Certificate of Entitlements (COEs) previously soaked up by Uber and other private-hire firms all went to individual car buyers.

Overall, though, there has been a reduction of more than 55,000 private cars in Singapore since 2013 when there were 607,292.

Rental cars

The overall number of rental cars has risen in the last five years from just 16,396 in 2013 to 66,480 in 2018. However, this year’s number has dipped from 68,083 in 2017, which could in part be attributed to Uber pulling out of the market in the same year.

Taxis

The number of taxis on the road has shrunk to 20,581 - the lowest in more than 10 years. This is being attributed to competition from private-hire cars such as Uber and now Grab and Gojek. This compares to 27,695 in 2013.

In addition, cab rides fell by 17.6 per cent to 647,000 trips a day.

Other vehicles on the road

Buses

The number of buses on the roads has gradually increased over the years and in 2018 there were 19,379, a slight increase on last year’s 19,285.

In addition, bus ridership rose by 2.2 per cent to hit the four million mark for the first time.

This is in line with Singapore’s policy to reduce car ownership and increase public transport options.

Motorcycles and scooters

The motorcycle and scooter population in Singapore currently stands at 139,311 as of July 2019 which is a slight increase from last year’s 137,480. However, this is less than it was in 2017, when there were 141,916 motorcycles and scooters on the roads.

The overall downward trend in the motorcycle population is likely to have been impacted by the National Environment Agency's offer of $3,500 for riders to scrap their older vehicles.

The dwindling motorcycle population has also been attributed to the falling COE quota. Open COEs are secured almost exclusively by car bidders, so motorcycles lose a portion of their COE supply - which eventually influences the motorcycle population - year by year.

Goods and other vehicles

This number has remained quite steady in the last 5 years at 160,344 in 2013 rising to 161,511 in 2018.

Motor Vehicle population by type of Vehicles

As at End of Period Total Cars Private Hire Cars 2 Taxis Buses Goods & other vehicles Motorcycles
2013 974,170 607,292 16,396 27,695 17,509 144,934 160,344
2017 961,842 546,706 68,083 23,140 19,285 162,712 141,916
2018 957,006 551,575 66,480 20,581 19,379 161,511 137,480
2019 (Jul) 967,768 556,155 72,646 19,070 19,553 161,033 139,311

Overall car ownership rate

Singapore's car ownership rate is roughly 11%. In the US, it is nearly 80% and it is just under 50% in Europe.

Percentage of Singaporean households owning a car

There has been a drop in the percentage of households owning a car, from 42.1% in 2012/13 to 35.3% in 2017/18.

Percentage of car ownership in Singapore

Percentage of Singaporean households owning a car

New car sales

The new car market was significantly smaller in 2018 than it was in 2017. It went from a total of 91,922 units registered in 2017 to 80,281 units, or a 12.7 percent decrease, in 2018.

Most popular car brands

The Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) 2018 registration figures show that two brands continue to dominate the market – Honda and Toyota. This year, they’ve swapped places with Honda at the top and Toyota in second place.

Both brands sold fewer cars here in 2018, with Honda taking number one spot by virtue of it maintaining its 2018 sales close to its 2017 levels.

The rest of the top five sees a rather larger shake up though: Mercedes-Benz has moved onto the podium, followed by Hyundai in fourth.

The top five brands – Honda, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, Mazda – sold a total of 53,338 cars between them, which accounted for 66 percent of the 80,281 of passenger cars sold here in 2018.

Singapore Passenger Car Registrations 2017-2018

2018 2017
1 Honda 15,040 Toyota 19,133
2 Toyota 13,817 Honda 16,013
3 Mercedes-Benz 7,122 Mazda 8,509
4 Hyundai 6,540 Mercedes-Benz 7,976
5 Mazda 5,414 BMW 5,591
6 BMW 5,405 Nissan 5,241
7 Nissan 4,019 Kia 3,848
8 Kia 3,923 Hyundai 3,804
9 Mitsubishi 3,284 Mitsubishi 3,555
10 Subaro 3,196 Subaro 3,239
11 Audi 2,941 Audi 2,604

Sedans were the most popular body style, with more than 40 percent, which is almost as much as the next two most popular types (MPVs/wagons and SUVs) combined. Hyundai’s sales were 80 percent sedans alone, with the Avante/Elantra being Singapore’s best-selling sedan in 2018.

Singapore's Top 6 Car Brands 2018 - Percentage of registrations by body style

2018 Honda Toyota Mercedes-Benz Hyundai Mazda BMW Total Percentage
Hatch 21.2 5.8 9.3 8.0 18.1 16.2 13.2
Sedan 22.7 30.7 50 81.0 62.0 30.6 40.3
MPV/WGN 30.6 40.3 1.8 3.0 3.0 12.5 21.2
SUV 25.5 23.1 22.8 8.0 16.7 33.1 22.3
Coupe 0 0.1 16.1 0 0.2 7.6 3.0
Total Units 15,040 13,817 7,122 6,540 5,414 5,405 100

Luxury cars

The number of super-luxury cars on Singapore roads has been rising steadily for the past decade. Since 2008, their car population has risen impressively by four times in the case of Bentley, and two to three times in the case of Lamborghini, Ferrari, Aston Martin and McLaren.

The top six luxury car brands in Singapore in 2019 – in order of highest number of cars sold are;

1. Bentley (61)
2. Lamborghini (38)
3. Ferrari (37)
4. Rolls-Royce (31)
5. Aston Martin (26)
6. McLaren (23)

Among the six brands (with cars mostly in the above-$750,000 price range) three posted higher sales here, according to latest figures from the Land Transport Authority.

In this segment, Bentley was the top-selling brand, although sales fell from 70 units in 2017 to 61 last year.

McLaren and Lamborghini saw sales more than double in 2018.

Lamborghini was the best-selling sports car brand, with 38 units sold. Ferrari was one car behind at 37 units. McLaren sold 23 units.

There were 31 Rolls-Royce cars sold in 2018, a 24 per cent increase from the previous year.

In total, the six high-end brands accounted for 216 cars sold - 13.1 per cent more than in 2017.

Number of electric cars in Singapore

Despite making up a tiny percentage of the overall car population in Singapore, electric vehicles (EV) and plug in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) are gaining popularity. Singapore has come a long way from the 1 fully electric car that was on the streets between 2014 and 2016, with 314 registered fully electric vehicles in 2017. Similarly, plug-in electric hybrids have also seen a 338% increase between 2014 and 2017. And in 2018, the EV population rose even further to 560.

While there is still a long way to go for electric cars to become a common sight on Singapore's roads, there has been an increase of electric vehicles in the car-sharing industry. For instance, Grab added 200 EVs to its fleet in 2019; so even if there isn't a continuing increase in private EVs, there will be an increased chance of you riding in one when you use a rideshare service.

Total Number of Electric Vehicles and Electric Vehicle Plug-Ins in Singapore by Year

Electric Vehicle in Singapore

Off peak car population

There has been a fall in registration of off-peak cars from 44,836 in 2012 to 16,340 in 2018.

Off-peak cars includes weekend cars and revised Off-peak cars (ROPCs). Experts say that rebate incentives to drive an OPC are not enough to off-set the costs of owning one.

Older cars (above 10 years)

Although in general, cars aged older than 10 make up a miniscule portion of the total vehicle population in Singapore, the number of car owners choosing to hold on to their cars even after they turn 10 years old has increased each year from only 7.7% in 2013 to 31.5% in 2017. This upward trend in car owners keeping their older cars and therefore renewing COEs on 10-year-old cars correlates with the decline that has occurred over the same period in average COE prices. This correlation suggests that the concurrent decline of COE prices may be one contributing reason alongside other changes in the economy that more people are choosing to hold on to older cars rather than buy a new one.

The number of COE revalidations - extending the lifespan of a COE's 10-year tenure by paying a prevailing quota premium - for last year is expected to hit a record of some 37,000, up from around 31,000 in 2017. The LTA has not yet completed the tally for revalidations last December.

Average age of cars 2018

The average age of cars in Singapore by the end of 2018 was 5.46 years. This is higher than the average age of a car in 2007, which was 3.1.

Average Age of Cars in Singapore Between 2007-2018

Average Age of Cars in Singapore Between 2007-2018

However, 2018's average car age of 5.46 years reflects a continuing trend of a decline in the average car age since its peak in 2014 at 6.58 years. This decline is a departure from the pattern 2006 to 2014, which saw a dramatic increase in the average age of cars from 3.2 years to 6.58 years. This may be explained partly by the decline in COE prices in 2018, which led to more people buying new cars or swapping their older cars for newer versions.

This trend also stands in contrast to the trend of car ages increasing over time in other well-developed countries. For instance, the average age of cars in the US is 11.6 years , 10.1 years in Australia, 8.29 years in Japan and 9.73 years in Europe.

Challenges of car ownership

Public roads

Building more and more roads is not sustainable, especially given Singapore’s land constraints. In 2019, about 12% of the country’s land area is already used for roads, compared to about 14% for housing.

The government has thus opted for vehicle ownership controls to maintain the vehicle population at levels supportable by road infrastructure as well as planned developments in public transport and traffic management systems.

In 2018, approximately 9,405 lane-kilometres of roads were paved, representing an increase from 9,293 lane-kilometres in 2017.

length of public pave roads

Congestion

Singapore currently ranks 88th in a global index of 405 cities for traffic congestion on roads in peak hours, compared to 54th place in 2017.

Latest statistics show that Singapore has an average congestion level of 31% - calculated by how much longer drivers spend on their commute during peak hours compared to non-peak hours.

This compares to 33% in 2017, showing there’s been a 2% reduction in traffic congestion in 2018, according to the study carried out by TomTom.

Singapore ranks better than London which has a congestion level of 37% (40th place) and New York with 36% congestion levels (42nd place).

In 2015 Singapore had a congestion level of 31%, the same as was recorded in 2018.

Measures to reduce car ownership

Cost of car ownership

As Singapore is small and space constraint a major concern, pushing prices of cars upwards seems to be a viable measure adopted by the government.

Global vs Local

Singapore is one of the most expensive places in the world to own a car. A new compact car costs around $99,000.

Based on the same car, Singapore car prices in 2019 are up to 6 times more expensive than; Australia (US$18,365), up to 5.5 times more than China (US$20,725) and 5 times more expensive than America (US$21,845). Whilst prices in London for the same car work out at around US$23,00.

There are seven factors that contribute to the cost of owning a car in Singapore.

*Registration fees
*Open Market Value (OMV)
*Excise Duty
*Certificate of Entitlement
*Additional Registration Fee (ARF)
*Vehicular Emissions Scheme (VES)
*Others

There are many fees involved in owning a car in Singapore that make it prohibitively expensive.

Registration Fees - A registration fee of $220 collected upon registration for the car.

OMV -- Open market value is how much it costs for a dealer to bring it over to Singapore. It is the cost price of a car, determined by Singapore Customs. It is based on the actual price paid for the purchase of the car, freight cost of the car; and insurance and other possible charges involved in the sale and delivery of the car to Singapore.

Excise Duty -- Every car buyer must pay excise duty which is 20% of the car’s OMV, with the addition of the GST. The tax is collected by Singapore customs.

Certificate of Entitlement (COE) -- New car buyers are required to buy a Certificate of Entitlement (COE), which is valid for ten years. It is a certificate that gives car owners the legal right to register, own and use a vehicle in Singapore for a period of 10 years. This system was instituted in May 1990.

The cost of the COE depends a lot on the demand and supply of the market. This means that if the demand for the car is high, the cost of the COE can even be more expensive than the car itself.

The fee of each COE is added on to the costs of a new car based on engine size.

ARF. Additional Registration Fee is imposed upon registration of the car. It is taxed based on the OMV of the car.

For now, any vehicle with OMV of up to S$20,000 will be subjected to 100% OMV.

As for vehicles with OMV above S$20,000, they will be taxed differently based on the incremental OMV.

VES. The Vehicular Emissions Scheme (VES) was implemented starting 1 January 2018 on all new cars, taxis and newly imported used cars.

The objective of it is to encourage buyers to choose a more environment-friendly model of car.

It assesses vehicles on four additional pollutants – hydrocarbons (HC), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter (PM). All these on top of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The VES rebate or surcharge for the vehicle will be determined by the worst-performing pollutant of the five being assessed.

Preferential Additional Registration Fee (PARF)

A car owner may apply for a PARF rebate to offset the various taxes when registering a car. This can be done if the car is de-registered before 10 years. The term "Additional Registration Fee (ARF)" is calculated from 110% of Open Market Value (OMV). If a car is less than 5 years old, then the PARF is 75% of the ARF.

On top of that, there are many other factors that can increase the overall cost of your car purchase such as:

  • Road Tax
  • In-vehicle Unit fee
  • Car plate number fee
  • Sales commission of dealers

Then, you need to factor in car insurance, loan repayments, maintenance costs and road tax.

In Singapore car insurance is mandatory. How much you pay for it is dependent on the following: the coverage you want, the car you own, your current age and your driving history. If this is your first car, you can expect to pay about $1,500 per year. Over a 10-year period, you can expect to pay about $15,000.

You will also need to factor in costs of parking, ERP, petrol and servicing.

Vehicle growth rate

In land-scarce Singapore, the government continues to steer the country towards becoming a car-lite society by moderating vehicle population growth rate.

As part of the Land Transport Masterplan 2008, the growth rate was reduced from 3% to 1.5% from May 2009 to July 2012. The annual vehicle growth rate was further reduced to 1% in August 2012, and to 0.5% from February 2013 to January 2015. From February 2015, the annual vehicle growth rate was again halved to 0.25%.

In 2018 the new growth cap was cut to zero for all private passenger cars (Categories A and B) and motorcycles (Category D).

Public transport

In addition to a cap on vehicle growth, the government is trying to deal with congestion by investing heavily in the country's public transport network.

It has added 41 new train stations over the past six years, expanding the city-state's network by 30%.

Singapore is investing $20bn Singapore dollars ($14.9bn; £11.1bn) in new rail infrastructure, $4bn to upgrade existing infrastructure and $4bn in bus contracting subsidies.

Public transport use rose to hit a record high in 2018, with a total of 7.54 million taking buses or trains a day, or 3.8 per cent more than in 2017.

It was the 14th consecutive annual increase in public transport ridership, according to figures released by the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

The average rail daily ridership (MRT and LRT) saw the highest increase of 5.7 per cent to 3.5 million rides a day.

Citations:

[1] https://data.gov.sg/dataset/annual-car-population-by-make
[2] https://www.lta.gov.sg/content/dam/ltaweb/corp/PublicationsResearch/files/FactsandFigures/M06-Vehs_by_Type.pdf
[3] https://www.bbc.com/news/business-41730778
[4] https://www.carbuyer.com.sg/singapores-top-10-car-brands-of-2018/
[5] https://data.gov.sg/dataset/annual-car-population-by-make
[6] https://www.singstat.com.sg

Disclaimer:

Data on this website was sourced in August 2019 with the latest available data from July 2019. Auto & General Insurance (Singapore) Pte. Limited does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the data and accepts no liability whatsoever arising from or connected in any way to the use or reliance upon this data.